Thursday, 5 July 2012

Commence 'Operation Helicopter Parent'

from here


I've noticed a change in the eating patterns of my eldest daughter lately. Choosing to have a glass of water instead of a hot chocolate when we go to the cafe. Bringing home her sandwiches uneaten from school. Only wanting rice for dinner. Complaining that she is putting on weight.

We've had discussions about natural body changes as you hit puberty - and the fact that all her friends will go through it too, only she's got there first. We've talked  about it being normal and the right thing for her body. We've talked about being healthy and strong as opposed to skinny and pretty; about body size not being a reflection on your self worth. And although I think the message has sunk in to a certain degree, I think genetics is against us on this one.

Tonight she told me she wants to cut all sugar and fat out of her diet and do lots of extra exercise so she can swim faster and look better in her bathers.

Sigh...

My mum would have been all over this - taking me out training, organizing my meals. My dad would have been telling me how hopeless I was if I didn't stick to it, if my lap times dropped off (not to mention every other aspect of my life he was able to find fault in).

But I know more than them. I am aware of where she's heading, even if she is not. I will encourage her to make healthy choices - but these choices need to be for a heck of a better reason than just looking good in her bathers - although I know how important this can feel at her age (at any age!).

So, my mission, should I choose to accept it (and you can bet the hell I do) is Operation Helicopter Parent. I will watch what she does. I will not turn a blind eye to any increase in unhealthy behaviours. She is my beautiful, funny, creative, articulate, intelligent, and very special girl - and if she stops being able to see that for even a second I am going to jump straight in a reinforce the crap out it. And I will not let her go without food.

I think the work that Laura Collins and the other devoted parents at FEAST do is amazing - but I never want to have to use their services. This family legacy of eating disorders ends with me. If I can't shake this bastard for my sake, then I will do it for my kids so they don't have to suffer the crap I've gone through.



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10 comments:

L said...

Though I'm not a mum, I've felt the same with my now 16yo niece when she stays with me and says the same things. It sends bolts of terror through my body. I don't want that gorgeous, strong, funny, intelligent little girl to hit the black depths of an eating disorder.

I hope you manage to help your girl see that she's so worthy and gorgeous!

Missy said...

Oh PJ

How scared and frightened you must feel watching your daughter take these steps - maybe seamlessly unaware of what further unhelpful behavior can lead too. I feel for you having to watch what would be my worst nightmare. Keep being that helicopter and at any other first signs I trust that you know what to do. In the mean time, please reach out for support for you, as I can only imagine the roller coaster of feelings that must be arising with this.

Hugs xx

Rosie Molinary said...

Sending love, PJ. If anyone can effectively parent the heck out of this situation, it is you. xoxox.

Emily said...

She's so lucky to have you for a mom, PJ. You have the experience and knowledge of the dangers of eating disorders and can see the warning signs. You won't reward the diet mentality in the way that so many other well-intentioned parents would because you know better.

I feel for your daughter as she goes through the angst of puberty, and I'm glad that she has you to guide her.

-Emily

HikerRD said...

My stomach is in knots imagining what you are going through. But your reassurance and your wisdom will help--you are appropriately offering a very different message than those you received when growing up!
Help her take charge of the things she can change--if relevant. Keep eating mindful, not distracted--avoid TV/computer eating. And keep the messages about activity to feeling good, for staying strong, not for weight loss. And remind her that weight loss in this period of growth with only stunt her growth and prevent her from reaching her height potential.

You are, of course, doing ALL the right things.Keep me posted.

C-Girl said...

this is my greatest fear about having children…. I cannot imagine how hard it is to see her make those choices and feel the pangs of ache, of memory, of fear. I truly hope that you declaration comes to fruition: it does end with you! She can learn from new, healthy you… keep that moving you forward, it's not too late!

Laura (Collins) Lyster-Mensh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura (Collins) Lyster-Mensh said...

PJ, my heart also in throat on this.

To my mind, those thoughts and tendencies ARE an eating disorder. I don't think they're voluntary or happen naturally to all people. I think they are a sign of an underlying predisposition.

Now, that doesn't mean a person is doomed to actually suffer from having that predisposition. In a family and environment that is clued in - as you are - you can keep the thoughts and compulsions from becoming a self-perpetuating cycle. You can strengthen the parts of the person's skills and thinking that counteract them. You can offer an environment that defuses these tendencies and load a young person up with other behaviors and thoughts during that critical period of development when such things take root and get hold.

I wish I had a clue when our daughter began thinking and doing these things. Had I seen them for what they were my response would have been calmer, more effective, and more confident. Instead: I floundered. I felt guilty. I argued. I didn't know good help from bad.

I don't think an ED predisposition is destiny. But it can't be ignored, and you won't. You will do the right things.

ebby said...

'Healthy and `strong' as opposed to 'skinny and pretty'... really? I would argue that healthy and strong are synonymous with pretty, and that skinny (if not someone's natural body composition) will actually not be pretty because being undernourished will result in bad skin, lank hair etc etc. I just think that it's a shame, that even where we try to encourage a healthy approach to diet and exercise, we still seem to be saying, 'you should chose being healthy OVER being pretty', and if people were good at choosing health, then there would be far less disordered eating in the first place. Just my thoughts on the subject .

PJ said...

@ebby - you misunderstand me - my daughter is the most beautiful girl and I tell her this. What I don't want her thinking is that skinny and pretty are the same thing. She can be her natural body shape (which at the moment is a bit soft and cuddly) and will always still be beautiful. But beauty doesn't have to just be what you see. I put far more value on inner beauty than on prefect skin and hair any day.
PJ